What is the definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

A child has special educational needs (SEN) if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.

For school-aged children, this means they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of other children of the same age and/or have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the sort of facilities generally provided for others of the same age.

Children who are under compulsory school age have SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability that is likely to require special educational provision when they reach compulsory school age. For children under the age of two, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind, including home-based programmes.

Why do you need to have SEN arrangements in place?

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework requires all early years providers to have arrangements in place to identify and support children with SEN or disabilities, and to promote equality of opportunity for children in their care.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice builds on the EYFS Framework and sets out that all providers must have:

  • arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities

  • a clear policy on identifying and responding to children with SEN, with early identification a priority.

What do early years providers need to do?

  1. Designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision (the The Role of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO))

  2. Develop an SEN policy. Only maintained nurseries are required to have a written policy for SEN, but it is good practice for all providers to do so. A model policy is available here.

  3. Identify and assess the needs of all children throughout the early years. Do not wait for formal progress checks, such as the integrated review or the EYFS Profile, to identify any concerns as early identification and action are seen as critical to a child's future progress and outcomes.

  4. Provide a cycle of assessment, planning, doing and reviewing for children with SEN, in partnership with parents, SENCOs and other specialist agencies. SEN Support.

  5. Consider requesting an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment if a child does not make the expected progress in response to appropriately planned interventions and programmes.

  6. Identify children who are eligible for additional funding such as the disability access fund or the local SEN inclusion fund.

  7. Co-operate with the local authority in reviewing the SEN provision that is available locally and in developing the Local Offer. What is the Local Offer?

  8. Support effective transitional planning and arrangements for children with SEN. Supporting the Transition to School

  9. Work closely with other services and specialists to secure support and interventions that will help children achieve the best outcomes. Involving Specialists

  10. Work closely with parents and share information on how children with SEN and disabilities are supported. Working in Partnership with Parents

  11. Ensure all staff are fully trained in order to provide appropriate support for individual children with SEN in accordance with the SEND Code of Practice. Training

  12. Ensure safeguarding practice considers the additional vulnerabilities of some children with SEN. Safeguarding Children

  13. Prepare for SEN provision to be evaluated in an Ofsted inspection

Last reviewed 2 April 2020